I got to do something brave today, something I don’t normally do, something that felt good and powerful and alive.
I got to speak aloud one of my deepest truths.
It’s truth I’m not able to share all that often, in part because it’s not mine alone and in part because it’s one that my children are still too young to understand. Someday, they will… but not quite yet. There’s also an element of fear of being unliked, banished, like every positive thing about me might be negated. (“I KNEW I NEVER LIKED HER!”)
But here’s what safe community does: It allows you to gently set your heavy burdens in the center of the circle. And if you need that burden burned, the circle will do it. If you need it healed, the circle will do it. If you need your sins confessed or demons exorcised or tears wiped or your hair held back while you puke it all out, the circle will do it – with a strong backbone when yours feels like putty, with clear words of acceptance when yours falters, matching your self-judgement with double the compassion. (Amiright, TLC friends??)
My dearest Laura McKowen had a post the other day that zinged me deep: “I stopped saying real things because I was afraid.” I knew EXACTLY what she meant.
Luckily, I also know the other side of the coin and what it means to say real things when you are afraid, BECAUSE you are afraid. Example: When I came out as sober to those beyond my closest friends and family, I did it with 500 days under my belt. (I wanted to be really, really sure.) And I did it to 50K of my closest friends, lol (the size of the YANS community back then). My god, my hands trembled as I hit “post” on my phone. My armpits were fucking drenched. The pounding in my chest felt like a jackhammer and I was confident I was going to lose my lunch. But I had to tell the truth – even if it gave people the reason, the ammo, to decide I was unlikable.
You know what, though? That’s not how it went down. The reaction to that post remains one of the most beautiful, grace-filled expressions of humans holding one another that I’ve ever experienced. Every “me, too” and “thank you” gave me courage, not regret. It empowered me. It empowered many of you, too.
In AA we talk about “rigorous honesty” and that has been one of the cornerstones of my life since I first heard the phrase. So today I work really hard to be rigorously honest with myself and am getting more comfortable being that way with others, too. Often lately that honesty has come in the form of boundaries – no more stuffing or hiding or minimizing or omitting or apologizing – just real, simple truth-telling, first to myself and then to others who may need to hear it.
After my experience this morning, I rode the momentum of the honesty wave and finally was able to set down another burden I’d been shouldering. It wasn’t anything to do with me, but I realized it wasn’t mine to be carrying, especially alone, and I was able to gently, gracefully place it where it belonged. Now, in its place, I feel freedom.
Here is what I’ve learned about setting down the truth: That thing you, at first, can barely allow to escape your lips gets easier to say over time. And, one truth begets another – not just in your life but in the lives of those who are inspired by your example.
“I fucked up.”
“I don’t want to live like this anymore.”
“This isn’t working for me.”
“I need to make a change.”
“I have changed.”
“I need something different.”
“I deserve something better.”
Maybe there’s something caught in *your* throat that you’re having a hard time saying out loud? If it’ll help, say it here. Or, leave it in my DMs. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to read every message but I suspect just the act of releasing it into the ether will give you a piece of the freedom you’ve been looking for. And it’ll be safe with me, I promise. Because I’m part of the circle, and am one of many who is willing to hold your proverbial ponytail.